Spinach and Cheese Puff

Around this time of year, I find myself in an unusual food funk. The harvests of the season are some of my favorite foods of all - butternut squash, cranberries, and sweet potatoes. But in an effort to enjoy these seasonal delights, I find myself resorting to the same dishes over and over again. They're tried and true recipes that are emblematic of the holiday season to me, so I eat them in full force during this time of year. But by indulging in traditional seasonal fare, like stuffing, roasted brussels sprouts, and mashed sweet potatoes, I stifle my culinary creativity.

So I took to Martha Stewart to find some new seasonal favorites. I wanted to bring something new to the Thanksgiving table this year (though I ended up making Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grape like last year on account of family requests) and find a few side dishes that diverged from my favorites that I resort to time and time again. Though her Sweet Potato Cannelloni was a beautiful and intriguing side dish option, I found the flavor to be rather dull and my ability to recreate the gorgeous rolls of thinly sliced sweet potato shown in the photograph accompanying her recipe severely lacking. Needless to say, this dish was not the one I was searching for.

But I did come across a brilliant, simple, healthy, and elegant side that is perfect for any time of year. The Spinach and Cheese Puff looked almost like an indulgent spinach dip at first sight, which was what drew me in. I'm a big fan of spinach as it is, but when I saw that this recipe included delicious Gruyere cheese and was so easy to prepare, I quickly made up my mind to give this one a try.

With just frozen spinach, Gruyere cheese, half and half, and eggs, this puff could not be more simple to make. I had the greatest difficulty with the cheese. During a stop at Trader Joe's I couldn't find a single bit of Gruyere, so I substituted Havarti to much delight. But grating cheese can definitely be a struggle, so I borrowed a tip learned from hours of devotedly watching the Food Network and stuck my Havarti in the freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes before grating.

The tasty spinach and rich cheese provide all the flavor you need, while the eggs and half and half keep this dish light and fluffy. And a sprinkling of cheese on top creates the most subtle of golden crusts. This is the kind of dish I could eat by itself as a meal, alongside a smorgasbord of other vegetable dishes, or even served alongside some fresh tomato slices and Italian bread. And the ease with which it can be prepared makes this puff perfect for entertaining or busy weeknight meals. This has become a new staple in my kitchen, one that is healthy but rich, simple but impressive, and versatile enough to never grow old.

Find the original recipe on Martha Stewart's site here.

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